By NEMS Daily Journal
Tupelo’s public schools have been through an unsettled period, so stability is an important goal at the moment. Changes in the plan for merger of Church Street and Carver elementaries unfortunately don’t contribute to that sense of stability.
Given the circumstances, however, the school board made the right decision on Wednesday when it decided not to spend as much as $1.4 million on a temporary solution to needed classroom space at Carver, which was to have absorbed students from Church Street in the fall. Both schools housed kindergarten through second-grade students before a decision was made in March to merge the schools on the Carver campus next school year.
When the cost of site preparation and temporary classrooms came back a stunning $500,000 above earlier estimates, school officials naturally balked and considered other alternatives. Those options included keeping some students at Church Street for the fall semester, giving contractors more time to do the site preparation work and therefore enabling them to lower the cost. But that would have been especially disruptive, and it raised the question of the wisdom of spending so much money on a temporary solution.
Wednesday’s decision sets aside temporary measures in favor of the goal of permanent classroom additions on either the Carver or Church Street campuses, or even the possibility of a new school. Either of these options is much preferable, and probably less expensive in the long run, than temporary classrooms and the expensive sitework preceding them. It would only have to be followed with more and greater expense a few years down the road.
The downside is that all K-2 students in the Carver and Church Street attendance zones won’t be able to attend one school. The board decided to send all second-graders to Lawhon Elementary School next year, which houses grades 3-5. That’s a second change in plans for many parents and students who were just getting accustomed to the first.
But the good thing is, students from Church Street and Carver automatically feed into Lawhon in the third grade, so second-graders who move to Lawhon will continue there for several more years. They’ll presumably have some continuity and stability after the change.
Meanwhile, the school district should take the time necessary to explore the best way to proceed with the financial options available. A full exploration of all the possibilities is in order, including new construction at either Carver or Church Street or a new location altogether if that is most economical and practical in the long term.